PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – King Norodom Sihamoni will participate in a tree-planting event in Kampong Thom today, along with government officials and members of the public, as part of a nationwide celebration that aims to draw attention to conversation of Cambodia’s forests.
Seng Sonarun, an official with the Forestry Administration Department, told Khmer Times, that the high-level officials will join the King for an event in Santuk district’s Thmor Samlang village.
Environmental activists are lauding the King for his annual participation in National Tree Planting Day, but are also calling on the government to do more to prevent deforestation.
Thon Ratha, a member of the NGO Mother Nature, said that planting trees was welcome but with rapid deforestation it was not enough. He noted that deforestation was occurring rapidly in the Cardamon Mountains, which include the country’s highest peak – Phnom Aural.
Poy Hong, a representative of the communities living in Prey Lang Forest, said she welcomes the King’s participation, but was less optimistic about the government. “Right now, the government is ignoring efforts by communities to preserve forests,” Ms. Hong said.
“The situation in Prey Lang and in Preah Vihear province nowadays is really very bad. Deforestation increases every day,” she said.
When asked about deforestation, Mr. Sonarun said he could not comment without first receiving a letter.
Khem Ley, founder of the Khmer for Khmer political movement, said it was good for the King to be involved in the national event. His participation, however, would not be enough to stop deforestation, he said.
According to a report from environmental group Global Witness earlier this year, deforestation in Cambodia is accelerating due to rising demand in China for luxury wood to make furniture.
“This black market trade is destroying the livelihoods of indigenous and forest-dependent communities,” it said in a study entitled “The Cost of Luxury.”